Not these dudes again - Celtics/Heat by the stats (2024)

I can’t believe we are doing this again. It’s like a toxic relationship that you finally escape, but somehow get lured back into again, and again, and again. Four out of the last five years, we will get Celtics vs. Heat in the NBA Playoffs, but this time it feels different.

First and foremost is what is going on with Jimmy Butler. Last information I could find is that he will be out “several weeks,” but crazier things have happened. I’m writing this assuming he won’t play, but most of these stats are for the entirety of the regular season, so Butler’s presence is very much a factor in them. Essentially, the current version of the Heat is a significantly worse version without Butler.

Second, the Celtics are much different from seasons past. Kristaps Porzingis is especially important against the Heat offensively, but Jrue Holiday’s shooting is an upgrade from Marcus Smart in this matchup (who the Heat regularly left wide open in crunch-time) and he’s similarly impactful on defense. There’s a reason the Celtics handled the Heat 3-0 in the regular season.

So, let’s get to the good stuff. Here’s a basic look at the Heat’s statistical leaders:

Not these dudes again - Celtics/Heat by the stats (1)

Nothing out of the ordinary here. Jimmy and Tyler Herro are co-leading scorers, Bam Adebayo leads the team in rebounds, steals, and blocks, and Butler leads the team in assists. Here’s what their high use lineups sorted by net rating:

Boston's and Miami's high use lineup net ratings:

— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) April 20, 2024

You’ll quickly notice that Kyle Lowry is featured in 4 of Miami’s 5 best high usage lineups, but he’s currently a Philadelphia 76er. The Heat made some pretty drastic changes at the trade deadline, and they haven’t played together all that often. Generally, here is how both teams rank in the “four factors,” as basketball nerds call them (per Cleaning the Glass).

Not these dudes again - Celtics/Heat by the stats (2)

The Heat’s profile is typical of a Miami team. Poor offensively, elite defensively, and determined to win the possession battle. They protect the ball on offense, are one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the league and turn your offense over. It’s how they generate points and stay in games while owning the 21st most efficient offense in the league.

The Celtics are a wagon. No, they are a runaway freight train. No, they are a wagon that gets loaded into a freight train, and the tracks lead into a really big plane, then the wagon and train are loaded into that, and they take off. What I’m saying is that they are really good.

But there are some pressure points that Miami can and will, annoyingly, press on. The Celtics don’t draw fouls, and Miami is one of the best defenses at playing physical “without” fouling. I use quotes because Miami gets ... let’s call it a generous whistle on the defensive end. The Celtics also do not turn teams over on defense, which means Miami will be free to run its offense and they will get shots up. There is a world where those shots go in, no matter how poor the looks and how mediocre the players taking them are. We lived that reality last postseason. At some point Miami can’t keep getting away with it, but that potential exists in any series.

Alrighty, let’s jump into the nitty gritty.

Miami’s defense vs. Boston’s offense

Miami is best known for their junk zone defenses, and they do that a lot and are good at it, but they are much more than that defensively. Miami plays a very aggressive brand of man defense when they are not in one of their zone varieties. They crowd ballhandlers and shade help on to your star players and primary creators.

Not these dudes again - Celtics/Heat by the stats (3)

Look where Herro and Terry Rozier are on the weakside. Herro is effectively ignoring Derrick White while Rozier is tasked with two covers on the weakside. Miami trusts that if the swing pass comes, they can scramble back and get to shooters. That’s why it’s important to make that swing pass and get them into rotation. They will cheat to the closest passing options, reading that quick and making the correct decision is paramount against Miami. KP does exactly that on this play out of the horns set.

Miami are the kings of taking the first pass away. KP's pass here is exactly how you break them apart. Stay calm and find the opening, because of Miami's aggressive style, there is always an opening.

— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) April 20, 2024

Not only do you need to make that read against Miami, but you also need to make it quick and the pass needs to have some pace on it. The Heat will let themselves get into rotation, but they’re experts at scrambling and are full of defensive playmakers.

I think there’s two keys for the Celtics’ offense to be successful in this series. The biggest one, literally and figuratively, is Kristaps Porzingis. He averaged 20.3-7.3-1.7 on an absurd 71.8% TS% against this Heat this season. His shooting is a way to provide easy offense for the Celtics and keeps Bam Adebayo away from the rim, right where the Cs want him.

KP is the key to this series. If he plays well, I have a hard time seeing it go past 5 games.

— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) April 20, 2024

His 3-point shooting helps, but where he can really kill the Heat is in the high post.

Celtics need to find KP in these spots, and not get lulled into mediocre 3s.

— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) April 20, 2024

His gravity in the high post is the key to destroying Miami’s zone. The Celtics need to ensure the process is right against the zone, or things can get bogged down and turnover heavy very quickly. For instance, on this play, Tatum settles for an ok-ish three early in the clock instead of finding KP, warping the Heat’s coverage and getting a better look.

Celtics need to find KP in these spots, and not get lulled into mediocre 3s.

— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) April 20, 2024

The second key is pace. I don’t mean taking quick shots necessarily, but pushing in semi-transition can eliminate a lot of the advantages the Heat’s gamey defenders and goofy schemes create. The Celtics need to attack early and be creative. Here’s a beautiful example.

A big key to this series will be Boston attacking in semi-transition. You want to hit the Heat before they get their defense set, and get whoever Herro is guarding involved.

— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) April 20, 2024

Jaylen will especially benefit from attacking early, where he can square up with a single Heat defender and not worry about help coming to swipe at the ball or force bad passes.

— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) April 20, 2024

Pushing the ball has the added benefit of forcing crossmatches. You want to dictate the terms of engagement to Miami, not the reverse, which they are masters at. On this one, Derrick pushes early, which forces Tyler Herro onto Jaylen, who gets an advantage, forces help, and then moves the ball. It ends in a Holiday missed bunny, but Miami is so out of shape defensively, the Cs get the rebound and JB hits a three.

— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) April 20, 2024

If the Celtics are dictating the pace and getting KP involved, I have a hard time seeing what Miami can do to stop this offense. Oh, and one more thing, attack Tyler Herro. Attack Tyler Herro. Attack. Tyler. Herro. The Cs do all three, and I think we are in for a short one.

Miami’s offense vs. Boston’s defense

This is a much more unfair advantage to Boston. Especially without Jimmy Butler, Miami just does not have a lot of options on the offensive end. I expect we will see a lot of Tyler Herro-Bam Adebayo pick-and-roll and hand-off actions (and a lot of illegal screens). Here’s Miami’s efficiency on playtypes per Synergy.

The heat are top 3 in efficiency on off-screen plays, top 10 in isos and miscellaneous and nothing else. It's a weird offensive team (a bad one).

Meanwhile, the Cs are top 5 in efficiency in 7! different playtypes.

— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) April 20, 2024

That’s a pretty dire snapshot of a below average offense, but their handoff game is good. Herro is especially excellent at pulling up behind a handoff action against drop coverage, which the Celtics favor.

He and Bam have nice chemistry and will often work into a pick-and-roll after a handoff is blown up.

Their isolation game is very good, but Butler drives a lot of that. Herro can attack lower level defenders, and has had success against Sam Hauser, but he’s not breaking down any of the Cs top perimeter defenders to a level that can win a series.

Bam can also do some damage in isolation when his mid-range jumper is falling, but the Celtics will live with those shots.

Those are difficult shots that don’t go in nearly enough to propel Miami’s offense to levels that can keep up with the Celtics. I anticipate the Cs will play Miami pretty straight up. Drop against pick and rolls unless Herro gets hot, and will be cautious sending help, trusting that their individual defenders can force misses. Without Butler, it’s a pretty good bet, and with him, it’s almost certainly a winning bet as well.

Miami’s offense really has to bank on some shooting luck, like what they got in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. All threes are not created equally, and Miami, and especially Butler, did a good job of forcing help and kicking to shooter. Miami’s issue is that one of those shooters is gone (Max Strus) and another is Caleb Martin, who shot 35% from 3 this season (and shot 50% in the ECF). I’m just not sure lightening can strike twice, but that brings us to our last section.

The Celtics are more talented than this version of Miami at basically every position except maybe center, and frankly you can make a decent argument that Bam and KP is a wash. Duncan Robinson had a nice season, but he’s coming off an injury and can be attacked defensively. Rozier probably isn’t playing, Butler probably isn’t playing, and even if they were, they aren’t as good as their Boston counterparts.

The Heat have to hope Pat Riley’s deal with whatever supernatural force stretches one more season. We always talk about how this is the year this version of the Heat’s run ends. They’re old, they’ve lost key pieces (good riddance, Gabe Vincent), but you can’t argue with their playoff results. The Heat’s black magic is real, but it only goes so far. Boston’s talent is realer, and if I were a betting man (and I am), I’d bet this is a pretty quick series.

Series prediction: Celtics in 5

Not these dudes again - Celtics/Heat by the stats (2024)


What is the Celtics record against the Heat this year? ›

The Boston Celtics were 3-0 against the Heat this season.
Boston Celtics10/27/20231.000
Boston Celtics1/25/20241.000
Boston Celtics2/11/20241.000

Who is favored between Celtics and Heat? ›

The Celtics are 14.5-point favorites in the latest Heat vs. Celtics odds from SportsLine consensus. The over/under for total points is 205.5. Before making any Celtics vs. Heat picks, you'll want to see the NBA predictions and betting advice from the proven computer simulation model at SportsLine.

Have the Celtics ever beaten the Heat in the playoffs? ›

The Celtics defeated the Heat 100–96 on the road in game seven, winning the series and clinching a berth in the 2022 Finals. It also was Boston's first win against Miami in the playoffs since 2010.

Do the Celtics and Heat have a rivalry? ›

The rivalry was established in 2010, the first year Boston and Miami met up in the NBA playoffs. Since then, they've faced off in six postseason series, including four of the last five. Those matchups have helped to make C's vs. Heat one of the league's most entertaining rivalries.

How many times did Boston beat Miami this season? ›

Boston beat the Heat in all three regular-season meetings this season, including a 33-point drubbing in Miami.

What are the odds of the Celtics beating Miami Heat? ›

The Celtics are an 8-5-point favorite over the Heat in NBA Playoffs odds provided by BetMGM Sportsbook. Boston is -400 on the moneyline. Miami is +310. The over/under for the game is set at 205.5 points.

Are the Celtics favored to win the finals? ›

Who will hoist the championship trophy to close the NBA season? The Celtics are +130 to win it all in 2024, the best odds in the league. Keep up with the 2023-24 NBA season on FOX!

Who is favored to win the NBA title? ›

NBA playoffs are underway and Boston is still the favorite to win the title. The Celtics finished the regular season with the best record in the league at 64-18. They are also the -250 favorites to win the Eastern Conference. While Boston is at the top of the board, Denver is a team to watch.

Who are the Heat Celtics rivals? ›

Why are Miami Heat and Boston Celtics rivals? The Celtics-Heat rivalry traces back to 1988, with the Heat boasting a 4-2 advantage in playoff series, the rivalry intensified in the 2010s. Both teams formed formidable "Big Threes," leading to memorable playoff clashes.

What was the Celtics worst record? ›

The 2006–07 Boston Celtics season was the 61st season of the Boston Celtics in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Celtics finished 24–58, the second-worst in franchise history after the 15–67 record in 1996–97.

How many times have the Heat and Celtics played each other? ›

Boston Celtics Fixture

The Teams Miami Heat and Boston Celtics played 113 Games since 2004. Among them, Miami Heat won 50 games (PPG 99.6, OPP PPG 101.2), Boston Celtics won 63 (PPG 101.2, OPP PPG 99.6). Miami Heat vs Boston Celtics Past H2H Results, Against the spread(ATS) Win%: 50.0%, Total Points Over%: 66.7%.

How many finals has Celtics lost? ›

The Boston Celtics have 5 series losses in the NBA Finals all-time.

Who is the rivalry between Miami and Boston? ›

The rivalry was established in 2010, the first year Boston and Miami met up in the NBA playoffs. Since then, they've faced off in six postseason series, including four of the last five. Those matchups have helped to make C's vs. Heat one of the league's most entertaining rivalries.

Who is the Miami Heat's rival? ›

The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have long been considered a fierce rivalry. It started during the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh era in the early 2010s and has continued with the Jimmy Butler-led teams. It has only gotten hotter since.

What was the Celtics worst year? ›

The Boston Celtics had their worst record in a season in 1996-97, with a record of 15-67.

What is the Celtics all time record against the Suns? ›

The Boston Celtics have a 77-60 record against the Suns all-time.
Boston Celtics77-603,202

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